The Ascendant Politician
by Jacob Shafer
Every politician worth his wingtips can feign humility. But coming from Maui Sen. Shan Tsutsui, it actually seems genuine. Like when we asked him how it felt to be the youngest Senate President ever, and the first from the Valley Isle, and he replied, “I honestly didn’t know until someone pointed it out.”
A graduate of Maui High and UH Manoa, Tsutsui was first elected to the state Senate in 2002 at the tender age of 31. He moved from the Tourism Committee to vice-chairing the more powerful Ways and Means Committee and finally to the chamber’s top post after cruising to reelection in November.
Impressive, especially for someone who generally flies under the radar while his more boisterous and controversial colleagues grab headlines. Then again, it may be that very trait that earned Tsutsui the job; he doesn’t go out of his way to make enemies, even among the almost invisible Republican minority. In fact, Tsutsui told us, he appreciates that as Senate President—as opposed to Majority Leader—his job is to “listen to all 25 members and make sure every voice is heard.”
Quiet though it may be, Tsutsui’s voice isn’t going away any time soon.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE from MauiTime‘s January 13 cover story “20 for ’11: Who Matters on Maui?” featuring twenty movers and shakers in art, food and politics who are shaping our island’s future.